The Week in Commentary
A lifetime of stubbornness comes to its close
Barbara Wiener, executive director of TVbyGIRLS, offers a remembrance of her father and his passing.
"My father was a crazy rocket scientist. Really. He worked in the space program in the 1960s as an engineer. ... Dad grew up in the Depression and enlisted in the Navy when he was 17. He ended up in a hospital for two years with tuberculosis. He was the only one in his ward to survive. He used to refuse to eat spaghetti because the nurses and doctors who put tubes into his lungs referred to the treatment as spaghetti. We never had spaghetti at my house. ...
"Once, while visiting with my sister, we saw a TV report on the Unabomber. 'Who would want to live in a shack in the woods and make bombs?' I asked. We both simultaneously answered, 'Our father.'
"That's what Dad was like. Still, you love your dad, as hard as that might be. He was stubborn as all get out. Stubborn as the day is long. That man gave the word 'stubborn' new meaning."
"This is lovely and sad and wonderful. Barbara has a beautiful voice. I wish more people had a chance to hear it. Thank you for sharing this small piece of her work." -- Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner, Minnesota
Donating a kidney is a good deed that doesn't go unpunished
Cathleen Cotter, a state employee in St. Paul,contemplates the news that her donation of a kidney may make it hard for her to get health insurance.
"Now I know that my insurance company, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, would deny me health insurance if I were applying as an individual. BCBS apparently believes I am high risk, even though I had to be in excellent health in order to donate a kidney. BCBS seems to think that people like me will be fine getting health insurance through the Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association high-risk pool. ...
"When people ask why I donated a kidney, I have trouble explaining what an easy choice it was for me. ... But I understand others who struggle with the decision to donate. It's major surgery. Recovery takes months. And no matter how often you ask, the surgeons will not perform even a tiny bit of liposuction while they have you on the table.
"Dialysis is awful; it causes bloating and cramping and it leaves patients exhausted. Luke once told me he couldn't ever remember seeing the end of a movie before the transplant. Kidney transplant surgery is cost effective; studies have estimated it pays for itself in two years. So why would BCBS, or any insurer, deliberately tip the scale against the choice to donate?
"This policy horrifies me. And it makes me angry. How can a nonprofit health service corporation justify this practice when it's neither good fiscal policy nor good public policy?"
"My father in law has had the same experience. No coverage from BCBS for a perfectly healthy man because he saved his daughter's life by donating a kidney." -- Mary Royer, Minneapolis
"I donated a kidney to a family member also and would do it again in a heartbeat (the decision was as easy for me as it was for you), but it's discouraging that BCBS feels that my health risks are greater than if I hadn't donated. And because I have been self-employed in the past and may be so again in the future, I might have to face the issue of health insurance coverage personally." -- Pat Shriver, Plymouth
A view of Palestine question you may not have heard: the Palestinian one
Hani Hamdan, a dentist of Middle Eastern parentage, offers a look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the Palestinians' viewpoint.
"Imagine how you'd feel if one day someone forcefully removed you from your house and farm and turned you and your family into penniless refugees because that person's ancestors, 3,000 years ago, used to live on your land. To Palestinians, that's the whole crux of the matter: An entire population was removed from its home country and its homes and farms were simply confiscated. To them, it is particularly outrageous that in the modern world one population can simply replace another.
"Contrary to what many in the West believe, the root of the Palestinian side of the struggle is not a religious one. Palestinians would be just as unhappy if their occupiers were Russian Jews or Moroccan Muslims. The conflict, to Palestinians, is about land and justice, first and foremost.
"Some would feel comfortable believing that Palestinians were like Bedouins or wandering tribes with no attachment to their land, but the truth is far from that. The land between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean sea was robust with cities, factories and farmland owned and registered to Palestinian Arab owners. I know this first hand, because both of my parents' families still hold onto their land ownership certificates."
"Awesome article. It touched my heart. Good job." -- Hassan Ismail, Minnesota
"Thank you so much for this article. Clear, concise and unbiased." -- Charity Clayton, United Kingdom
A lull in the storms brings a snow-day feel to Duluth
Lucie Amundsen, a Duluth writer and graduate student, describes the scene she and her family confronted Wednesday morning.
"The thunderclaps have been the kind I feel in my fillings — sharp and all too near. Accompanied by disembodied shouting in the dark, flashing lights and car alarms, we got little sleep in my typically dull neighborhood in Duluth's Central Hillside. ...
"Daybreak on my deck revealed a spot where the creek had washed away part of the iconic Skyline Parkway. A blue Toyota with Washington plates was sunk a good six feet into the ravine and quickly attracted gawkers like me. ...
"In the lull of heavy rain, we've been doing what neighbors do — gathering, chatting and comparing notes. 'Did the seals from the zoo really crest over their enclosure and onto Grand Avenue? Did you hear the creek by the co-op on Fourth Street broke through the old retaining wall? Did you know both footbridges in Chester Bowl are washed out?' ...
"I suspect the snow-day feel will begin to wane soon. The heavy rains have started again and my teeth sense more thunder on the way. Soon I will put on my chore boots and head over to help the friend down the street with the standing sewer water, because that's also what neighbors do."
"What a lovely post in the midst of a rather frightening event. I had to drive in for jury duty this morning, fording streams, I mean streets, and avoiding the debris and sinkholes along the way. If you didn't believe in global warming before, surely this 'weather event' confirms it." -- Deborah Petersen-Perlman, Duluth
"What dear Lucie didn't mention was that she cranked out this piece and then went to said neighbor and hauled soggy belongings out of the basement for a couple of hours. Now the neighbors are at her house showering and headed to another house for pizza, sent by another neighbor. Duluth is truly an amazing place to live." -- Britt Rohrbaugh, Duluth
"Even though we've been up for 24 hours now pumping water out of our basement reading Lucie's column gives me that old humble feeling so typical in Duluth: 'Well; others have it much worse than we do...back to work!'" -- Michele Helbacka, Duluth
"This is why Duluth is a cool place to live: We really care about each other, whether it's helping pull cars out of ditches or staying up all night, to make sure drivers don't go into a sinkhole." -- Claire Kirch, Duluth
If the end were near, what would you do?
Sources in our Public Insight Network contribute their thoughts about pop culture's fascination with the end of the world and offer a few ideas about how they would spend their last days.
"The fact of death looms over life for each of us existentially and for the species itself. ... I'd do what I'm doing now, only more consciously. I'd continue to write each morning. I'd do my best to live gratefully, attending to beauty in nature and in art and to family and friends. I'd pray more thoughtfully. I'd walk my dogs more joyfully, stop yelling at them for barking, and find a place on the North Shore to look out to the horizon of Lake Superior. I would avoid Brussels sprouts." -- Gordon C. Stewart, pastor and writer
"In today's world, there is a palpable sense that the planet is running out of gas, literally and figuratively, that the party is over, that the human race is at the end of its rope. Past girlfriends and an 11-year marriage notwithstanding, I would tell my coworker that she is the only woman I have ever loved." -- Whitney Strus, banker
"The end of the world is not an historical event. The end of the world is a personal event. Steve Jobs had an end of the world. Eight billion dollars is not enough to prevent an end of the world. We are all going to die. We will all have to face this. The personal end of the world is guaranteed and the only thing all people have in common. I had to face the end of the world, when I had cancer. I bought a motorcycle, took a trip around the world, and built an off-the-grid retreat near the Canadian border. I hugged my children, cried and felt the feeling of being fully alive." -- Jack Goldman, writer and former teacher
"People love drama, and the end of the world is as dramatic as it gets, so of course it's a popular topic. ... If I knew I had three weeks, I'd quit my job and try to hang out with the people who mean the most to me, my friends and family. But has anyone considered that everyone on the planet would be doing that very same thing? This would leave precisely no one to provide any basic services. ... My prediction is that by Week Three things would be so bad, I'd be cheering for the meteor." -- S. Christiansen
Court's decision to allow cell tower makes the wilderness a little smaller
Steve Piragis, proprietor of Piragis Northwoods Co. in Ely, explains why he believes the BWCA needs to remain free of flashing lights.
"On a clear, moonless night in December last year, I was alone in the middle of Gabbro Lake. The ice was clear and the wind was still; only the rumble of expanding ice broke the silence.
"Out of range of all manmade light, the stars seemed to almost hum in the sky. As I walked along, awake and alive in the moment, a new light appeared between low hills on the northeastern horizon: a red, blinking light.
"What was pure wilderness, like no other that a person can find in Minnesota, suddenly was interrupted. The Lookout Ridge tower is miles away from Gabbro by Snowbank Lake, yet on a clear night in winter the red strobe demanded my attention and disrupted what Ely advertising calls 'the last great pure experience.'
"Is this experience becoming less pure as more towers and more lights are allowed to infringe on wilderness?"
"This is sad news; I travel 1,500 miles to get off the grid and into the peace and solitude of the BWCA. Very sad." -- Alex Hoff, Texas
"This is very disappointing. I was in BWCA for the first time three weeks ago. You can read about it and see pictures, but you can't understand until you're there. Once I was on Boulder Bay of Lac La Croix in the middle of the wilderness it was stunning. There's nothing there, no indication of human impact anywhere on the horizon — no cell towers, no power lines, no distant cut in the wilderness for a distant highway, nothing. I've spent a lot of time in the woods hiking and camping and I found the BWCA to be a unique wilderness. Cell towers shrink the wilderness and that makes me sad." -- Chris York, Greenwood, Ind.